Early Warnings

Early Warnings

Molecular probes that identify the 'signature' molecules of cancer will save lives, reports Gavin Metcalf

The Biologist 61(6) p29-31

Cancer is a devastating disease that results from numerous factors, including age, lifestyle and the genetic make-up of our family tree. More than 330,000 people in the UK were diagnosed with cancer in 2011 – equivalent to around 910 people a day[1].

There is some good news, though: the number of individuals surviving breast, prostate and skin cancers is improving, with five-year post-diagnosis survival rates of more than 80%. However, there is still a staggeringly low percentage of survival among the UK population with lung, oesophageal, brain, pancreatic and stomach cancers: post-diagnosis fewer than 21% are alive five years later[2].

Currently, most cancers are diagnosed upon an individual noticing clinical signs and symptoms resulting from the tumour. Tumours of the pancreas, for example, usually do not cause symptoms until they grow large enough to press on nearby nerves or organs, whereupon the individual will develop back and/or abdomen discomfort, along with non-specific symptoms such as tiredness.

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